Robert Bowen
Robert Bowen
2/11/13 9:54 a.m.

The recipe for the traditional muscle car was simple. Take a plain-Jane, midsized offering and re-engineer it for performance: big engine, big tires and, in many cases, big graphics. That plan of attack gave us a laundry list of tire shredders, most sporting nowiconic badges on their flanks: Oldsmobile 442, Chevelle SS, Plymouth Road Runner and more. Pontiac’s entry into this field was the one that many consider to be the originator of the species: the GTO.
The early ’70s fuel crisis removed most muscle cars from the showroom, but the smaller pony cars continued. After 2002, however, both the Pontiac Firebird and Chevy Camaro were dead, and at the time GM didn’t have a replacement on the horizon.
This meant that GM, for the first time in decades, lacked a midpriced, rear-wheel-drive performance car. Part of the reason was cost—by then the company had exclusively moved to front-wheel-drive platforms for its large and midsize passenger cars, so there was no easy way to share thedevelopment costs that could easily produce a rear-wheel-drive performance model.
The Cadillac CTS chassis was one option, but the large car was designed from the outset as a premium chassis with a premium price tag. Building a less expensive CTS or badge-engineering it into something else would take away some of the prestige that it enjoyed. This left GM without options for a performance car that didn’t steer with its driving wheels.

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